Apoptosis or programmed cell death is an evolutionarily conserved process of cell death, wherein cells die without provoking significant inflammatory response. There is convincing evidence that apoptosis contributes to the progression of heart failure. Apoptosis occurs through a cascade of subcellular events including cytochrome c release into the cytoplasm and activation of proteolytic caspases. Activated caspases lead to fragmentation of cytoplasmic proteins, including contractile apparatus, to a variable extent. It is proposed that the release of cytochrome c from mitochondria and contractile protein loss in living heart muscle cells contributes to systolic dysfunction. Interestingly, despite extensive changes in the cytoplasm, nuclear damage, which is the final event in apoptosis, is rather infrequent in the failing heart. Since the nucleus remains unaffected and the genetic blueprint intact in cells with interrupted apoptosis, these heart muscle cells might be amenable to cytoplasmic reconstitution. This process of 'apoptosis interruptus' could allow development of novel strategies to reverse or attenuate heart failure.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine